Seattle Weekly: Yacht Rock, the Internet program on www.channel101.com that you write, produce, and star in, has become a cult hit. Where did you get the idea to do a parodic takeoff on late-’70s/early-’80s soft rock in the style of E! Hollywood Story or Behind the Music?
J.D. Ryznar: I’ve always fantasized about what it was like being guys making music back then—certainly a freer time, and the boats looked like they were fun to be on. I came up with the term “yacht rock,” but Hunter [Stair], who plays Kenny Loggins, and Dave Lyons, who plays [soft-rock impresario] Koko, have their own term: “Marina rock,” as in Marina del Ray [where Yacht Rock takes place]. So we compromised: Yacht rock had to do with the more elite studio artists.
Steely Dan is sort of the primordial ooze from which yacht rock emerged, whereas Marina rock is more of the one-hit wonders, like “The Pina Colada Song” guy, Rupert Holmes. As I got more into Steely Dan, I recognized the similarities between them and the Doobie Brothers, then [that] Kenny Loggins was involved, and realizing that this was a huge world of musicians that not a lot of people had looked into that deeply. It sparked my imagination. I thought about writing a spec script imagining what these guys’ creative stories [were] like.
The show has an interesting framing device: The stories are told in flashback by “Hollywood” Steve Huey, who’s actually a music critic for All Music Guide. How did you meet him?
Through my roommate. We’d have afternoon barbecues, and Dave Lyons would show up and bring Hunter [and] Hollywood Steve, the friend of a friend. We call him Hollywood Steve because he got into [the Screen Actors Guild]. He had these roommates who were extras, and they were looking for skinny guys for Pirates of the Caribbean. Steve was like, “Why not? I’ll try out.” He gets this extra role and works for three months and gets all this money and a SAG card. He took a commercial acting class and got an agent and now he’s appearing in commercials and stuff, and he just stumbled on it. And he really is a rock critic. It sort of legitimizes the whole thing, even though the stories are completely false.
One of the funniest things about the show is having John Oates do all the talking and Daryl Hall nearly silent.
Part of the point of Yacht Rock is going against the audience’s expectations. The more you can take these music icons and go against type on this show, the more fun it is.
Similarly, the cheapness of a lot of the wigs and fake mustaches gives the show its flavor.
We got what we could. [laughs] You know, if we can have a real mustache instead of a fake one, we’ll take it. But, you know, we can’t get the best fake mustaches in Hollywood, we can only get the $5 ones. Channel 101 has to take credit for that more than we do. It’s just such a cutthroat, bare-bones, low-budget way to get your stuff seen. You just spend the money you can spend, and you make it as fast as you can make it. That’s part of the charm.